ROYERSFORD — Spring-Ford had been bottled up back in its third of the field for the first 10 minutes of its Pioneer Athletic Conference boys soccer semifinal on Monday night at Coach McNelly Stadium.
Then Ram senior Kole Lyons saw an opening and decided to let one rip from long range that found the goal and sparked a string of scores in a 6-0 win over Pope John Paul II.
Spring-Ford (15-2-1) — which got goals from six different players — will play for the championship on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the same site against Perkiomen Valley, a 1-0 winner over Pottsgrove in the earlier semifinal.
"Somebody just had to let it fly,' said Lyons, who unleashed a low shot from 35 yards out on the right wing that wound up in the left corner of the goal in the 11th minute. "I'd definitely say it was big. It kind of gave us a jump start. We wanted to come out really strong and put it away.'
"It was a disappointment,' PJP coach Jerry DeLeo said concerning the sudden goal on Spring-Ford's first shot of the night. "That first goal was an AstroTurf goal. Credit for their kid for knowing enough to take a shot. It gave us a reason to pause. It took us back a step.'
After that, the Rams used an assortment of crosses, corners, set pieces, and rebounds to advance to the final.Dan DiLiberto scored off a cross from David Gulati to make it 2-0 at the half.
Then Andrew Alban scored off another cross, this one from DiLiberto, for a 3-0 advantage less than five minutes into the second half.
Not long after that, the PJP side thought that a penalty kick should have been called on a foul in the box, but no such call was forthcoming.
"That was a pivotal non-call at 3-0,' said DeLeo.
Then the Liberty Division champions broke the match open when Jerry Williams headed in a corner kick from the right by Bryan Gryscavage midway through the half and Austin Betts was there to put in a rebound off a shot by John Fazzini with 11 minutes to go.
A score by Gulati off an assist by Lyons wrapped up the scoring with six minutes left.
"The thing that we've been working on is movement on the field,' said Spring-Ford coach Doug Landis. "Six different goal scorers ... that means everybody was moving on the field. Kole had some crosses, and he's coming out of the back. We had guys making all kinds of different runs and that's what we needed. We tell them they only have so many opportunities to capitalize on, and we capitalized on six of them."
"We scored on a lot of set pieces,' Lyons added. "Connecting on things that will get us into the net. We have a lot of great depth coming off the bench. I think that's what made us successful tonight."
Spring-Ford, which lost in overtime to Boyertown in last year's final, wound up with 14 shots to one for PJP (6-9-1) — a try in the first half by Drew Glass on which Ram goalkeeper Pat Swartz made a diving stop to his left.
The winners also had a large margin in corner kicks at 12-2. Golden Panther keeper Greg Everett made six saves.
"The Spring-Ford kids have a good feel for playing on the turf,' said DeLeo, whose team finished second in the Frontier Division for its first Final Four spot in its four years of existence. "They had a little bit of a home field advantage, but that comes with their performance throughout the year."They're a quick team and they're well-coached. All their players have high soccer IQ's. They make their decisions very quickly.'
Now the Rams will have a chance for some revenge against the only opponent to beat them during the PAC-10 regular season.
"I think we're definitely a little faster than they (the Golden Panthers) are,' said Lyons. "But Perk Valley has some speed. They're the only team to beat us. We definitely want to settle that ... kind of like our grudge match.'
"We've seen them twice (in a 1-0 win and a 3-0 loss) and we got to watch them in the Pottsgrove game,' said Landis. "They have a quick counter-attack. We wanted to take it one game at a time and we haven't talked to the players about it ... but I don't like the fact that they beat us during the season. I want to have that rubber match.'